Swamimalai is a sylvan village, situated about five kilometers west of Kumbakonam on the banks of a tributary of river Cauvery. The temple is situated very close to the bus stand and the railway station and is about two kilometers away. It is well connected to and surrounded by important places like Kumbakonam, Tiruvidaimarutur, Mayiladuthurai, Papanasam, Tanjavur etc.
Swamimalai is fourth among the arupadai veedu or sacred shrines dedicated to Lord Murugan. The presiding deity here expounded the meaning of the Pranava mantra OM to his own Father Lord Shiva Himself.
Mythology says that saint Bhrugu before commencing an arduous tavamor penance, got the boon that anybody disturbing his mediation will forget all his knowledge. Such was the power of the penance that the sacred fire emanating from the head of the saint reached up to the heavens, and the frightened devas surrendered to Lord Siva praying for his grace. The Lord extinguished the sacred fire by covering the saint’s head by hand. With the saint’s penance thus disturbed the Lord became oblivious of all his knowledge and is said to have regained them by learning the Pranava mantra from Lord Muruga at this shrine.
Once when Brahma, the lord of all creations was proceeding to Kailasa, the ever-playful child Lord Muruga asked him for the meaning of the Pranava OM. When Brahma admitted his ignorance, the Lord imprisoned him. With Brahma imprisoned, all creations came to a standstill and the devas prayed to Lord Siva to get Brahma released. When Muruga insisted that the imprisonment was a just punishment for the ignorance of Brahma, Lord Siva asked him whether he himself knew the meaning of the primordial Pranava OM. Lord Muruga said that he knew the meaning of OM and can expound it to the latter only if he can accept him as guru and listen to the exposition as a devoted disciple. As Lord Shiva acceded to the request of Lord Muruga and heard the exposition of OM as a disciple, the place came to be known as Swamimalai and the presiding deity as Swaminathan.